Q&A: Feeding a foal

  • Q: I have recently purchased a coloured colt who is six-months-old and currently stands at 12.2hh. His mother is 15hh and is a solid cob but I have no information as to the height and breed of his sire.

    Is there any way to guess my colt’s potential height? What can I feed to help him grow to this potential?

    Nutritionist Christine Smy replies: Without knowing the height of the sire of your colt, it is virtually impossible to guess his potential height.

    As a general rule, by their first year, foals will gain 60% of their mature weight, 90% of their mature height and 95% of their eventual bone growth, so this may give you an early indication.

    Foals born late in the season are heavier and taller than early born foals and native breeds take longer to reach their potential heightthan Thoroughbreds.

    It has been suggested a foal’s final height is usually determined at a young age, depending on several factors, like genetics, environment and a correct feeding regime.

    Research has shown native ponies often reachmature height at five years of age, whereas those fed an adequate well-balanced diet can reach mature height at three.

    I do not recommend you start to feed big amounts of concentrates to your colt in order to push his growth. His breeding would suggest he’ll develop slower than a Thoroughbred type.

    Pumping him full of feed will increase the risk of DOD (developmental orthopaedic disease) which means he may suffer contracted tendons, epiphysitis, osteochondrosis and wobblers, which is more common in fast-growing horses fed excess levels of concentrates.

    Feed between 1.5-2kg (3-4.5lb) of special youngstock feed a day and mix with a nutritional chaff such as dried grass or alfalfa at a level of 1-2kg (2-4.5lb) a day.

    Cut down the levels if you feel your colt is laying down too much fat. You will not require a supplement if you are feeding the above.

    With the onset of spring grass, you can cut down on the concentrates by about 50%, depending on the quality of the grass. Come the autumn, increase concentrate levels slowly.

    Read more about caring for your foal:

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